Opportunity Fund Helps an Entertainment Center Keep Kids, and Special Needs Visitors, Cool in the Heat of Summer
Millennium Family Entertainment Center in Yuba City, California, is a family amusement business and corporate event venue offering laser tag, bumper cars, and a climbing wall play area. After having kids, owner Sarah Core and her sister Amy decided to open the center and provide family-style entertainment in a community with few options.
Before opening the center, Sara was working part-time running a karaoke bar. “I have a six-year-old and nine-year-old boy. I didn’t want to be away from the kids all day, so opening up this center made sense. My husband runs the kitchen, and I run everything else. My kids also work here,” explains Sara. “They know how to run the cash register, the prize counter, and they even work in the kitchen because they have their food handlers card.”
The entertainment center is also home to 20 employees ranging in age from 16 to 20. The two shift leaders started working there when the center opened and are on track to become assistant managers and run the food service area.
Mentors and Classes Help Launch the Business
After hatching the idea, Sara and Amy asked other entrepreneurs for advice and attended classes and seminars. A county supervisor candidate, running on a platform of helping small businesses succeed, asked the women about their business plan, which didn’t exist at the time.
“I immediately started researching business plans. I had to learn what a business plan was, create one, and teach myself how to do QuickBooks. Now I do all the bookkeeping for the business. I went to human resource classes, and met with business advisors and consultants focused on this type of business. They shared the best advice for how to set the business up and the types of attractions we should offer,” says Sara.
Meeting the Needs of Those in the Community who Need it Most
Sara and her family are very involved with the special needs community and host an Easter Seals group the second and third Thursday of the month. Sara gives out a $5 game card for arcade games and everything else in the center is free. Employees lend a hand to those who are physically challenged with the logistics of bumper cars, laser tag, and other activities. On every first and second Thursday the center donates the use of a room so groups can play Bingo.
The center staff is also actively supporting others in the community. “We visit schools and local groups in the area, especially around Fall when many groups are looking for harvest festival activities. We bring our cotton candy machine and give the groups an option: we can charge for the cotton candy and let them keep all sales for their fundraising or offer it all for free,” says Sara.
A Loan from Opportunity Fund Helped the Center Buy a Much-needed Air-conditioner
In a climate that frequently sees Summer temperatures above the century mark, funding to install an air conditioning system was critical. “We couldn’t get funding anywhere. One of the people I do volunteer work with told me to call Opportunity Fund. Thanks to that call, I was able to get the funding I needed to install the air conditioning system.”
Sara had contacted ten or fifteen different lenders and tried to get working capital loans, bank loans, anything, but heard one no after another. After she reached out to Opportunity Fund, the loan was approved and funded quickly.
“We probably would not have lasted another summer. Going without air conditioning was affecting our business. As it got hotter and hotter, people started to complain, which resulted in bad reviews. It took a toll on the business as we kept promising to fix the air conditioning but, until Opportunity Fund stepped in, we couldn’t afford to,” says Sara.
The entertainment center has saved money thanks to installing a permanent air conditioning system. “We used to try to redirect cool air with blowers into the party rooms overnight, just to keep those areas comfortable. We used up a lot of power and spent over eight thousand dollars a month in electricity bills. It barely made a difference, cutting a few degrees here and there. Once we put the air conditioning in, our electricity costs dropped almost by half.
The Future Looks Bright for the Millennium Family Entertainment
Sara and family would like to expand and open more locations in the next two years with an eye on eventually turning the business into a franchise with new facilities in California and possibly Oregon, Michigan, and Arizona. If those plans proceed, Opportunity Fund may again be a star in the entertainment business.